VIRGINIA BEACH -- "Cash for Clunkers," the stimulus program that gave drivers thousands of dollars to trade in gas-guzzlers last year, has become a thorn in the Republican battle to take on Democrat Rep. Glenn Nye (D-2nd D).
GOP candidates are taking aim at Scott Rigell, who has raised the most money among Republicans in the race ahead of a June 8 primary.
Ben Loyola, Ed Maulbeck and Scott Taylor are slamming Rigell's decision to take part in "Cash for Clunkers."
Loyola and Maulbeck are demanding he give back $444,500 his Freedom Automotive dealerships received as part of the program last summer.
"It was a program he profited from, half a million dollars, yet he speaks out against the program," Loyola said. "He can't have it both ways."
Rigell declined to be interviewed Thursday, citing scheduling conflicts. His campaign manager, Jason Miyares, said Rigell does not support "Cash for Clunkers" and would have voted against the program, even though his dealerships sold 107 cars in the program, according to the Department of Transportation.
"He was never supportive of it, he didn't like program, he thought it was an administrative nightmare," Miyares said.
So why did Rigell take part in a voluntary stimulus program he did not support?
"This was his customers receiving vouchers from the government to turn in clunkers, not a program he ever endorsed at any time," Miyares said.
The Rigell campaign put out a news release labeling Loyola's call to return the money a "particularly desperate attack."
Miyares pointed out Loyola, who runs an engineering contracting firm, also received stimulus money.
USAspending.gov shows Loyola Enterprises, Inc., was awarded $849.52 for a work order to build an ADA-compliant sidewalk.
Loyola said his payment came from the U.S. Department of Interior and he says, unlike Rigell, he never knew it was stimulus money.